Caskaway: Francisco Rosa's desert island drams

Caskaway: Francisco Rosa's desert island drams

In each edition we ask one of the industry’s great and good which drams they would take to our desert island. This time, it's the Oxford Artisan Distillery's head of distilling Francisco Rosa

Caskaway | 03 Jul 2023 | Issue 192 | By Bradley Weir

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Born into a Portuguese wine-making family, Francisco ‘Chico’ Rosa was visiting his dad’s vineyard from the age of five. He continued to pursue his family’s biggest passion early on in his career, studying wine making at college.


While undertaking these studies, Rosa started to brew his own beer at home and developed a fascination with the production process. He honed this craft further on the renowned brewing and distilling course at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University. While studying in Scotland, his eyes were opened to the myriad possibilities of whisky, in particular the flavours and stories behind each creation.


After graduating, Rosa was appointed as head of distilling at the Oxford Artisan Distillery, which was founded in 2017 by Tom Nicolson and Tagore Ramoutar and is located in a former Oxford City Council depot. In the years since, Rosa has helped to establish the distillery’s unique approach to whisky and, with the distillery team, created its first batch of Oxford Rye, which has become arguably the distillery’s best-known expression.


Whisky #1


100 Rye

This is so well made, in particular the balance of citrus notes as well as herbal and floral notes. I love the depth of the grain itself. It’s outstanding. It’s a whisky that I was introduced to during my first year of studying distilling when I was getting used to whisky. It was one of my first experiences and a whisky that helped to get my tastebuds going. It’s a whisky that has been following me in my life for a while, and one that is definitely close to my heart, especially because of the grain it’s produced from as well.


Whisky #2


18 Years Old

I cannot go on the island without mentioning any peated whisky. In this case, the one that has been with me lately is Ledaig 18 [Years Old] from Tobermory Distillery. You cannot go wrong with smoky notes, and you cannot go wrong with sherry casks, either. It’s really well crafted, from the super heavy and waxy character to the body and the proof. I also think it’s really well matured. Very good flavour. They’ve done a really good job.


Whisky #3

Oxford Artisan Distillery

Oxford Rye Batch #2

It’s hard to not go for one of our own whiskies. Going on this island, I am definitely going to choose a whisky that can be enjoyed with the sun. This whisky can be whatever you want it to be, and be enjoyed however you want it to be enjoyed. It can be embraced neat, in a cocktail, or with ice (if I have access to ice on the desert island, of course). There’s a lot of complexity to it. Our second release is super heavy, but it’s so floral and fragrant. I may sound full of myself. Once we opened the casks and tried it, we were so delighted. I was going around showing everyone the dram. It’s my favourite whisky to have in an Old Fashioned, too.


Whisky #4

St. George’s Whisky


My fourth choice definitely gives me a desert island vibe. Again, I think this is a perfect whisky. It’s a combination of different whisky worlds, in particular the whiskies of Japan and Scotch whiskies. In terms of flavour, it’s very fruity and tropical, and there’s a combination of mango and melon, as well as floral notes. I find it super refreshing. The first time I tried this whisky, nobody told me what the dram was… I just knew it was whisky. When I tried it, I said, “Wow!”. It’s a whisky I remember well, and I could never get bored of.


Whisky #5


18 Years Old

This is one of those whiskies that I will always need to have at home. Always. Whenever I have anybody come around to my place, and they ask for whisky, I always recommend this one. Especially at entry level, I think this is a great introduction for somebody and also to convert them into the delights of whisky. I also think it’s a year-rounder. You can drink this whisky at any time of year and in many different forms. It’s super well made and well balanced, with fruity and herbal notes.


Luxury Item

My luxury item would be an espresso machine, and if possible, I would like to bring some beans, too. It would be great to just hand press the espresso and it’s something I would enjoy and like to do myself while on the island.

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